‘Verhalenvertellers’ als informanten: obstakel of een waardevolle bron? | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 22, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 1385-1535
  • E-ISSN: 1875-7324


‘Storytelling’ informants: obstacle or valuable source?

Iris Poelen

This article discusses a methodological issue revolving around informants providing ‘twisted truths,’ and uses examples from research among West Africans in Bergamo, Italy. That research studied West African women and their experiences as migrants in Italy. It highlighted the story of one particular woman whose life history seemed to include both truths and untruths. This article uses the work of Goffman (1978) to examine the ways in which migrants tell their stories. It is important for fieldworkers to be aware of the reasons migrants could have to twist truths: the precarious situations they find themselves in and their ways to gain certain goods or status. Triangulation is often mentioned as a verification strategy, but is hard to achieve while researching transnational migrants. A critical stance towards triangulation is in order, and it could be useful for researchers to investigate the motivations and functioning of the ‘storytelling’ of migrants.


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